Our History



Building on the rich history of the Frederick Douglass Scholarship, Provost Scott Bass established the Frederick Douglass Distinguished Scholars (FDDS) program, offering the largest merit-based scholarship in the history of American University (AU).

Professor Charles Tesconi led a team of AU faculty and staff in the benchmarking and review of academic enrichment and student support programs to shape Provost Bass' vision for the FDDS program.

Professor Tesconi and his team advised Vice Provost Phyllis Peres in the selection of the program's founding director. Vice Provost Peres selected Larry P. Thomas as the Founding Director of the FDDS program.

As the architect of the FDDS program, Thomas wrote a six-year strategic plan to design a leadership development and graduate/professional school preparation program for a new generation of socially responsible leaders. Thomas established and chaired the High Standards Council, a program advisory committee of faculty and staff.


Professor Joshua Woodfork is appointed Faculty Liaison, facilitating student-faculty interaction and program engagement with AU schools and colleges.


The High Standards Council is renamed the FDDS Faculty Advisory Committee. Professor Russell Williams is appointed Chair.


AU recognizes the FDDS program as the best and the brightest.

Professor Williams steps down as Chair of the FDDS Faculty Advisory Committee.


The FDDS program celebrates its fifth anniversary with the graduation of the inaugural class.

Matt Lien becomes the first FDDS inducted into Phi Beta Kappa.


The American College Personnel Association presents the Voice of Inclusion Medallion - Exemplary Program Award to the FDDS program.

The Heart Foundations awards AU a $75,000 grant to support FDDS program operations and student development.

MSNBC and the FDDS program host a conversation between Secretary Castro and Congressman Castro.

Daniel Marks becomes the first FDDS to earn a Public Policy & International Affairs Fellowship.

AU celebrates the FDDS as undergraduate student leaders who give back.


Nkemdilim Chukwuma was selected as student speaker for Kogod commencement.

Stephanie Vela was selected as student speaker for CAS commencement.

Justin Morgan and Jessica Rothman become the first FDDS to earn Spotlight Health scholarships from the Aspen Institute. Additionally, the Institute selects Thomas as a 2016 Aspen Ideas Festival Scholar.

Black Enterprise features the award-winning FDDS program in an article entitled " Scholarship Rewards Students Looking to Change the World."

Isobel Araujo becomes the first FDDS to earn a Udall Scholarship.


PPIA scholar Shyheim Snead becomes the first FDDS to earn a Harry S. Truman Scholarship.

Executive Leadership Council scholar Winter Brooks is featured in Black Enterprise.

The Frederick Douglass Distinguished Scholars program is featured in El Tiempo Latino.

Color Magazine honors the Frederick Douglass Distinguished Scholars program with a Leadership Award at the 10th Annual All-Inclusive Awards.


WJLA-ABC7 spotlights the award-winning Frederick Douglass Distinguished Scholars program.

The I Can Dream Teen Conference names Tamir Harper a Champion of the Year.

Fernando Rocha is honored at the Film and Media Arts Visions Festival, receiving the Undergraduate Documentary Award, Audio Award, and Diversity & Inclusion Award.

Jada Olsen, Fernando Rocha, and Thomas earn Patrick Kelly Scholarships from the Aspen Institute to participate in the annual Society of Fellows Symposium.

Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority salutes Winter Brooks with the Nellie Mae Quander Leadership Award.

Truman Scholar Shyheim Snead becomes the first FDDS to be selected as a finalist for the Rhodes Scholarship.

Winter Brooks is celebrated by the Honors Program with the Outstanding Community Service & Academic Achievement Award.

President Sylvia Burwell presents Shyheim Snead with the President’s Award.

The Kogod School of Business selects Winter Brooks for the Charles C. Glover Award.

Phi Beta Kappa honor society inducts Isobel Araujo.


The FDDS program celebrates its 10th anniversary on February 14th

Hana Manadath and Elliott Sanders earn Critical Language Scholarships.

Larry Thomas celebrates ten years as FDDS Director on October 1st.

Liza Wilson receives Killam Fellowship.

Nicole Fernanda Perez addresses white nationalism on CNN.

Sophia Vos receives a Fulbright Grant to Mexico.


Wim Taylor named as second Managing Director of FDDS program on January 1, 2020. He previously served the university as a Faculty Fellow within the FDDS Program and in various other capacities. 

Hana Mandath receives a Fulbright Grant to Jordan.

Ana Santos receives a Fulbright Grant to Brazil.

Liza Wilson receives a NOAA Hollings Fellowship.

Shalini Ramachandra receives a National Science Foundation (NSF) Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU).


Fernando Rocha receives a Fulbright Grant to El Salvador.

Kiran Waqar earns a Critical Language Scholarship.


Shyheim Snead receives a Knight Hennessy Scholarship

Sophia Vos receives a Pickering Fellowship

Sophia Vos receives a CitizenDipolomacy Action Fund or US Alumni

Jada Olsen receives a Fulbright Grant to the United Kingdom


Alia Abdur-Rahman receives a Fulbright Grant to Spain

Riley Phoenix earns a Critical Language Scholarship